It’s The Way Of The WEST: Service & Supply Industry Continues Support Of Community Cause Despite Downturn

These are not the best of times for the Canadian oilfield service sector but, thanks to a strong commitment to a very worthwhile cause — Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) — on the part of those involved in the sector and to a well-oiled organizational structure for a key annual fund-raising event, 2019 is likely to be a record year for attendance and fundraising for the PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala event.

And those attending the 25th Petroleum Service Association of Canada (PSAC) STARS & SPURS Gala, being held on Saturday, January 19, at Calgary’s BMO Centre, will discover “there’s an App for that too,” as the world of smartphone and tablet technology allows them to do everything from finding their seats, to seeing who’s attending to purchasing drinks.

The charitable event, which for many years was the financial lifeblood of the life-saving STARS program and remains a key contributor to the STARS system, is taking on a new high-tech feel this year.

Mark O’Byrne, in the position of vice-chair of PSAC, which oversees the PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala, says the new world of ease-of-access App technology should make the entire event more pleasurable for everyone attending. The Event Buddy App can be downloaded beforehand by going to the starsandspursgala.ca website.

“It will operate like the Starbucks App,” said O’Byrne, an oilfield service company veteran for 35 years, who is president of Palliser Production Management Ltd. (a Schlumberger company).

O’Byrne, who returned to Canada in 2014 (he is a Canadian) after more than three decades of working outside of the country and who has been on the PSAC board since then, took on the challenge of organizing this year’s PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala early in 2018, with a commitment to establish an organizational structure that would ensure its success.

As a result, although there are still limited tickets available for participation in the various auctions and other fundraising components, it is anticipated the event will be sold out, with 1,500 tickets sold.

“Last year there were about 1,200 tickets sold,” O’Byrne said. “We’re sitting at around 1,300 tickets sold, but there’s always a final push before the event.”

In addition, there has been more sponsorship money raised for this year’s event, with the $40,000-$50,000 commitments, the highest value sponsorships made available, having been sold out for this year.

“There has always been very strong support for the PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala, but this year has been even better than usual,” he said.

He attributes that to a change in the organizational structure for this year’s event to organizing committee directors who performed above the call of duty.

In the past, the event chairperson had a lot on his or her plate, being responsible for virtually every aspect of the event, from attracting sponsorships, to booking entertainers, to marketing. But O’Byrne created a management structure that has four directors overseeing various aspects of the event. He is chairperson, but other PSAC board members including Steve Glanville (of STEP Energy Services), January McKee (of AMGAS Services Inc), Dirk LePoole (of Di-Corp) as well as Tom Pierce (of Gary Waldron & Associates) were responsible for finding sponsors, booking entertainers, managing the relationship with PSAC and STARS and marketing.

As a result, even though the Canadian oilfield service sector dealt with a difficult business environment as 2018 progressed, much of the key components of the PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala were off and running early in the year.

“At the end of the day it’s all about raising money, and we’re looking at a 20 or 25 per cent improvement over last year, which was the hope for the 25th anniversary,” he said.

While some essential elements of the annual event will remain, such as the Western theme, including attendees being encouraged to wear Western garb, along with the headline entertainment being provided by Country Western stars George Canyon, Gord Bamford and Aaron Pritchett, there is a new entertainment feature this year.

“For 25 years they’ve had the Western theme but, in my view, we were overlooking the Indigenous contribution,” said O’Byrne. This year those attending will be entertained by Indigenous acts that have long attracted rave reviews. They include hoop dancer Dallas Arcand Jr. and the Sorrel Rider Drum Group.

The Master of Ceremonies this year is Calgary TV personality Jill Belland, who is an award-winning television host and producer with 16 years of industry experience. She most recently was the co-host of Calgary’s favourite morning show Breakfast Television on Citytv.

The PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala has raised an incredible $16 million over the years for STARS and this year’s event is expected to add substantially to that total.

In addition to the funds raised from ticket sales, there are a number of auctions during the gala.

For example, PSAC board members arranged for the artist who has been responsible for the bronze statues seen at various locations during the Calgary Stampede to craft bronze statues every year for the event.

The bronze statues have become collectors’ items during the years of the event.

O’Byrne also wants to see more money raised this year, and encourages industry to purchase a commemorative, 25th anniversary Western belt buckle. The specially designed buckles are available for $325 each. In the past only board members purchased them, but they are available for purchase via the PSAC STARS & SPURS Gala website this year.

Another new feature this year is the plan to promote the Canadian energy industry brand by presenting red woolen mittens to all of those attending, said O’Byrne.

The idea for the mittens came from the recent Summer Olympics, which were held in Brazil. During that event the Canadian Olympians wore red mittens, to promote the Canadian “brand.”

During the gala a video promoting the Canadian energy industry will be presented as well.

“The video will also feature a Country Western song, which will promote the Canadian energy industry brand,” he said.

“Canadian Energy is the most responsibly produced energy on Earth that benefits the quality of life for all Canadians,” said Gary Mar, PSAC’s new President and CEO. He added: “We have a great story to tell and we intend to tell it across Canada. Canada needs Canadian Energy and now, more than ever, the world needs more Canada.”

To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit starsandspursgala.ca.